Since the start of the 2011 season, Philadelphia Eagles running back, LeSean McCoy, has established himself as one of the premier ball-carriers in the NFL. However, after leading the league in total touchdowns, McCoy is now finding the path into the end zone a bit more difficult.
Through the first eight games of the season, McCoy is averaging a career-low of 4.3 yards per carry. Now while a lot of his struggles are a byproduct of the injuries suffered along the offensive line, the other portion of the blame belongs to Andy Reid and his stubborn play-calling.
Although the Eagles were able to generate 447 yards of offense against the New Orleans Saints, they only put 13 points on the board. After watching the Eagles and their red-zone struggles for eight games, there is a clear indication of where the problems rest.
On Monday, the Eagles were faced with 1st-and-goal four times throughout the game but couldn’t finish the drive on any occasion. Amazingly enough, the team was actually outscored 7-6 when in the red zone, thanks to a 99-yard Patrick Robinson interception return.
In this article, I’ll be breaking down how the Eagles utilized McCoy and try to figure out why this team struggles so mightily when it counts.
Drive No. 2
Base formation for the Eagles on 2nd-and-5.
The top cornerback drops closer to the line of scrimmage, indicating that the Saints are going to blitz.
Michael Vick notices the shift and runs McCoy off the right side.
Stanley Havili is able to seal the edge, springing McCoy for an eight-yard gain.
Later on in the drive, Bryce Brown rips off a 40-yard run and sets the Eagles up at the Saints' 5-yard line.
On first down, the Eagles run McCoy behind backup left tackle King Dunlap.
Dunlap (No.65) is clearly beaten off the snap, which results in...
A one-yard loss.
On the ensuing play, Reid takes McCoy off the field—which all but indicates to the defense that the Eagles are going to pass. Vick throws a ball that deflects off Brent Celek and is intercepted for a touchdown. Huge momentum swing for the Saints and sparks a hostile crowd.
Drive No. 3
The Eagles had lost right tackle Todd Herremans on a 13-yard run by McCoy before this play, so I give credit to Reid for getting creative with the offense and alleviating some pressure off the offensive line.
Let's see what Reid does:
Here, the Eagles get tricky by motioning DeSean Jackson into the backfield. Note that the Eagles player with his hand on the ground, behind the line of scrimmage, is Clay Harbor.
The ball is snapped. Harbor rises and will head toward the left side to seal the back end of the run from oncoming blitzers.
A crease is formed.
And McCoy has enough daylight to find 25 yards.
At the end of the play, a very questionable penalty is called on Jeremy Maclin, but the run still nets Philadelphia a first down.
Two plays after the big gain, Reid decides to call the exact same play—only to the opposite side.
Jackson goes in motion, while Harbor lines up in the backfield...
The Saints remember the play from two minutes ago...
And drop McCoy for a loss.
Now, I completely understand why the Eagles went back to it, since this play was effective the first time it was called. But to run the exact same thing with only one play in between completely negates the "surprise" factor that Jackson's motion is supposed to bring.
After failing to convert on third down, Reid's stubbornness shows again. By leaving the offense on the field, he risks crucial field position, despite being only down one score early in the second quarter.
Knowing that the Eagles only need one yard, the Saints stack eight in the "box."
The Eagles do a good job once the ball is snapped.
However, Roman Harper is able to break free from the crowd.
Harper dives at McCoy, who is barely able to avoid the shoestring tackle. Shady finishes off the run by making three additional defenders miss for a huge 34-yard play.
Although McCoy takes Philadelphia all the way to the Saints' 4-yard line, he does not get a single carry inside the red zone. The Eagles are forced to kick a field goal and blow a golden opportunity.
With the screenshot above showing over 14 minutes remaining in the half, Reid decides to take the ball out of his superstar's hand—giving him only two more carries before the third period.
Drive No. 5
With the Eagles down 21-3 in the second half, they come out in a run formation.
The fullback motions out of the backfield and lines up just behind the protection.
New Orleans sells out for the run while the Eagles run play-action and are in max protect.
After rolling back left, Vick finds seven yards of separation between him and the nearest defender.
After finding his receiver down the field, Vick is able to step into his throw and deliver a pass without any pressure.
The play results in a 77-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Jackson, who ran wide-open after the play fake. Credit goes to McCoy for his 102 first-half rushing yards on this play.
After cutting the deficit to 21-10, the Eagles recovered a Saints fumble on the following kickoff. Their drive began at the New Orleans' 22, but for some odd reason, Reid elected to keep the ball in Vick's hand for a short four-play drive.
McCoy doesn't carry the ball until the 1:05 mark of the period, but by that time, the rout is on.
The Eagles handed McCoy the ball 13 times in the first half but only six times in the second. My belief is that this inconsistent workload is what prevented McCoy from capitalizing on his strong opening-half performance.
To compound this issue, Reid constantly subbed in a rookie running back whenever the Eagles were on the verge of scoring—which effectively eliminated the team's most dangerous scoring threat. When the Eagles offense would line up in shotgun formation with an empty backfield, the Saints would bring additional pressure and sack Vick.
For the vast part of his 13-year career, Reid has done a good job of putting his players in a position to succeed. But after reviewing Monday's game film, it's important for owner Jeffrey Lurie to ignore his track record and focus on whatever improvements the Eagles want to make in the future.